Sophomore Slump

Day two of NaBloPoMo is much harder than Day one. On the first day, I was excited, a little nervous, but optimistic and eager to get to the keyboard.

Today, day two, it’s already well into the evening and I am just now sitting down to write something. Inertia is real, people, and it’s not pretty.

So – on to today’s topic. French. The French language, the Lingua Franca. I’ve been learning it over the last couple months. Mainly I’ve been using Duolingo, which is a cool little language app that I carry around on my phone. I am currently on a 54-day streak, meaning I’ve done at least a little French (maybe 10 to 15 minutes’ worth) every day, no skipping, for almost two months.

Très bien, eh?

I’ve also been using some elementary Pimsleur CDs in the car, but I don’t drive much, lucky as I am to work mostly from home lately. Still, it’s nice to get a few minutes practice here and there. People who see me driving and talking to nobody probably think I’m crazy, but c’est la vie.

I also researched a good novice-learner level textbook on Amazon and have tried to do a written exercise or two most days. It’s mostly grammar, with some reading comprehension.

All said, I’ve learned a few things:

  • I think I’m pretty good at learning new languages. My prior experience with both Hebrew and Russian implied the same.
  • Some French pronunciation is really difficult. The nasal “n” sound, like in “un” and “blanc”, seems to be sound a little better lately, but the “r” sounds are still giving me problems. There’s a guttural “r”, a kind of sound that is almost a “w”, and then the sound in the middle of the word “voudrier”, a d followed by an r, which I am just not getting yet.
  • The diacritical marks make written French a bit more difficult. I’m still learning how to distinguish the sounds of the diacritical marks from their “normal” cousins, but have not really nailed it yet.
  • I sometimes have an irresistible urge to talk like this guy:pepelepew

NaBloPoMo

I have not blogged in a REALLY long time. There are a bunch of reasons, which I may explore later in the month, but first, an announcement: I am on board with NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) – see http://nablopomoguideunofficial.blogspot.com/ for details.

I will try to write every day for the month of November (this post counts for November 1st, by the way).

I did this challenge along with a friend several years back (Thanks Laura Howe!), and I feel like the presence of a tangible goal will help me with my writing discipline.

Wish me luck!

Triple Stores, Semantics, Ontologies – Oh My

Last night I trekked down to the Whitepages office in downtown Seattle to hear Michael Uschold speak about triplestores, graph databases, and related topics. This was a meetup organized by the Seattle/Bellevue Graphs Meetup.

It’s not something I know a whole lot about but I’m interested in language semantics and have a general kind of idea that graph databases are good (great?) at allowing you to extract sometimes messy relationships from a diverse set of more-or-less connected data.

The good: Mike is a really knowledgeable guy, a working practitioner on the hardest commercial problems in the field, and seems super approachable.

Whitepages, as a venue, is pretty sweet as well. Food and drink were provided during the 30-minute networking prelude.

The bad: the lecture got hijacked (well, maybe “hijacked” is too strong a word) but several people who felt compelled to add their $0.02, but except for a couple cases, didn’t add a lot to the information presented by Mike. There was one guy who knew a lot about Neo4j, which was the counterexample that Mike used vs. RDF triplestores, but other than that I felt a little cheated. At least half of Mike’s presentation had to be cut at the end because we ran out of time.

Would I go again? Probably – I met another attendee who indicated that these meetups are generally pretty tech-heavy, and there’s an interesting one on new developments with Neo4j coming up next month.

Investing in Recruiting

The other day I went out for a 4+ hour interview loop at a company here in Seattle. Regarding the amount of time I gave up, reaction among friends ranged from neutral to “I would never work at a company that asked me to give up that much time for an interview.”

My gut reaction is different. I WANT to work at an organization that invests in its recruiting process. Remember, I am not the only person who gave up time – the four people I met with also gave up their time to interview me. Further, unlike some other companies, where interview prep consisted of glancing at my resume while starting the small talk, these people were prepared, and they knew their roles in the interview process. One person grilled me hard to see how I dealt with pressure and no-win situations. One person dug deep on my technical knowledge. One person assessed my interpersonal / soft skills. One person judged my fit for the specific role, my ceiling, and my interest in contributing. In between they conferred, presumably to share thoughts and decided if this was to be a short-circuit loop or not (it wasn’t).

Recruiting is just one of the ways that a company can try to ensure that they get the best employees who are most likely to succeed (organizational culture is another; onboarding is yet another; the review process, in whatever form that takes, is yet another). I believe that all are important and worthy of conscious investment, because I believe that people are a competitive advantage.

S2, S1, G1

The Seattle Sounders’ USL team – Sounders FC 2, or just S2 – played their season opener last night, and clubbed defending USL champions Sacramento, 4-2.

I didn’t think that we played that well in the first half, but our second half performance was full of energy and directness. Andy Craven and Sam Garza both outfought the Republic CBs for a scrappy goals to take and then retake the lead, and an exciting 70th minute free kick off-the-keeper-off-the-post-off-the-keeper by Pablo Rossi effectively sealed the game. However, it was Cristian Roldan’s 89th minute stunner off the break that was most memorable. Victor Mansaray broke into space down the left and, using the outside of his right boot, hit a tremendous cross past the sprinting defenders and right into the path of Roldan, who thumped it home.

The atmosphere was loud and cheekily obnoxious. ECS showed up with flags and banners and smoke and drums and sang on and off throughout the match.

I have an inkling that the main field is a little small; either that or Charlie Lyon has a cannon for a leg. I can’t find any field dimensions reported anywhere, so it’s hard to say.

Getting Started is the Hardest Part

I thought that getting back into a frequent blogging routine would be easy. Turns out it’s not so easy. I’m not sure why.

I’m doing lots of semi-interesting stuff lately with tech, including the Raspberry Pi, Python, C, Linux, AWS, and Java, but a particular topic doesn’t jump out at me.

I’ll have to ponder this one for a bit.